The rush of travel and tasks is a constant pressure right now. As I type this, Nathaniel and I are shuttling back and forth between Kansas City and Atlanta. We’re taking a quick day trip to work with some of the producers at Georgia Public Broadcast – GPB is one of the five PBS member stations working on a national documentary project that Brainroot is overseeing. The last six weeks have had me burning down I-70 from Fulton (where I live with my wife) to KC (where Nathaniel and the rest of the KCPT team are) to work on this project that I love – flying through a ton of intense meetings, crashing on a kind KC couch overnight, doing a second day of non-stop meetings – and then rushing back to Fulton to be with the one I love while doing non-stop emails, calls, and document builds.
It’s a great team of people. It’s a project we’re passionate about. It’s project that’s funded.
…I don’t like it.
I’ve been a self-employed freelance video producer for seven years, now. I moved down to Kansas City straight out of college when I was used to having no money…and continued in that vein for a rather long time. Constantly meeting just enough success to keep the bills paid and to slowly invest in new equipment – but rarely knowing for certain where the income would be coming from two-months out.
It taught me a sense of frugality that I don’t regret learning in any way. It just makes it a little disorienting when there’s suddenly funding attached to a creative project and we actually get to focus on making that project happen, rather than having to spin it on the side of the money-earning projects.
About three years ago I made the decision to stop seeking after client work and to double-down on documentary projects.
Easier said than done.
It was during this time that Kevin Bryce and I finished We Are Superman and just after that Nathaniel and I began working on Your Fellow Americans. These two projects were 100% passion projects – no money, no distribution pitch. Just making it because they were projects that ought to be made.
2013 was, coincidentally, a pretty tight year financially.
It was during that year that the earlier decision to focus just on documentary projects was really decided. That’s when I really committed. I mean, when you watch a stone skip across a pond, you just know that it’s gonna stop skipping and sink as some point. You never actually expect it to skip all the way to the other side.
And it’s in those moments when the decision is really made – not the decision of charting a different path, but the decision of keeping on that path once it seems nearly impassable.
I’m glad that I, and then Nathaniel, decided to keep on keeping on.
In early 2014 Kansas City Public Television expressed interest in the Your Fellow Americans. A few months later they funded a low-cost six-month, 24-episode web documentary series. That series finished up in April 2015, just in time for KCPT to fly Nathaniel and me to the PBS Annual meeting to pitch the possibility of producing the same sort of web documentary series in multiple cities.
A few months of very hard work later, KCPT secured a $850,000 grant for just such a series and they wanted Brainroot to be the Series Producer.
So we were off to the races. Nathaniel and I get to work with a dream team of people from KCPT and four other PBS member stations on a project that we really believe in and love working on…and we’re getting paid to do it!
Three years ago, this is exactly what I hoped for. Two years ago, that hope was stretched thin to the point of breaking. One year ago that hope had some new life breathed into it. Today,all my hopes have been satisfied and the only one left is my hope that you find this project as exciting as we do (once you see it). We’re living the dream.
But…. there are still those moments where it all seems too good to be true, and I get suspicious that I’ve made a huge mistake. When that happens, I don’t like it.
But then another email comes in, and I remember: This is awesome.